Yes, Cameron's dialogue lacks wit and/or reasonable imitation of actual human speech, and the central love story is proudly, unabashedly corny. But it works, and having star-crossed lovers dominate the movie allows Cameron to have fun portraying the experiences of two characters traveling on the ship, rather than attempting to cross-cut through every possible angle. When disaster strikes, the film feels all the more immersively menacing. Cameron wields large-scale effects with near-peerless skill—even after almost fifteen years of technological advances, there's still something vivid and frightening about that iconic shot of the underside of the boat as it tips upward. I know Cameron loves his 3D, but the remastering that could get me back into the theater (having seen it three times in the original run, and having a DVD at home) would be an IMAX treatment. Could Cameron have resisted the urge to shoot the whole thing in IMAX cameras, had that been feasible in the late 90s?
But the passage of time will likely be kind to the American Pie gang at the box office, not because the first movie holds up especially well—I can't say one way or the other, not having seen it in full since summer '99—but because a lot of people who graduated various things between, say, 1997 and 2001 will recognize the comfort of a reunion, just as they toasted along "to the next step" back in '99. Hell, I feel affection towards these characters, and for the most part I couldn't really tell you why. The first movie, and to some extent the third (the second one is pretty terrible), are so good-natured that it's easy to forget watching them—I did—that as nice and pleasant as these guys are, they're also mostly devoid of specific personalities. Jim (Jason Biggs) being hapless doesn't really count; what does Jim want, apart from sex? In other words, what does a Jim who gets laid regularly want? (American Reunion isn't really sure; it just uses marriage and a kid as an excuse to deny him sex all over again.) None of the guys in American Pie seem to have taste; you can't even tell if they love the classic Third Eye Blind or Semisonic tunes blasting on the movie's soundtrack or if they're just dudes who like whatever's on the radio.
Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has the debased-sophisticate thing going, and the accompanying tastes for fine literature and wine, but his desires never really develop over the course of the, uh, trilogy, er, quadrilogy, whatever. It takes him until the fourth movie to finally dispense with his stock subplot of once again sleeping with Stifler's mom—but American Reunion (unlike the pared-down American Wedding, which Chris Klein didn't even attend) is so overcrowded with returnees that Finch must share his half-interesting thirtysomething check-in with Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and, yes, Oz (Chris Klein), who both get to star in variations on "do I still have feelings for my high school crush?" One of these stories, told delicately, could be fun. Two, told with deadly earnestness, are a slog. That just leaves Jim's bumbling through the advances of a nubile eighteen-year-old (Alyson Hannigan, as his wife Michelle, plays more of a CBS sitcom wife here than she does on her actual day job as a CBS sitcom wife, where she's allowed be to both funnier and kinkier than she is in American Reunion); and Stifler, still filling the Fonzie/Urkel/Poochie promoted-beyond-logic role, but coming off better than ever because Seann William Scott does have a devious, hellbent comic timing.
Despite the stealth douchebaggery of even the non-Stifler characters, there's something sort of endearing about the amusing, callbacking, semi-lazy American Reunion. It's like a less reprehensible version of Grown Ups; these guys are as grateful for the work as Schneider and Spade should be but never are. I wonder if the kids from summer 1998's less raunchy, more old-fashioned pander-fest Can't Hardly Wait are pissed off about their lack of sweet, sweet reunion money (and, in the case of Biggs and Scott, exec-producer credits). Well, Jason Segel is probably fine with it, and Chris Owen, who played the sight-gag klepto in that movie also reprises the Shermanator here. But poor J-Love! She's taken to hooking!
Expect a treatment of on-the-verge undergrads even more stilted and alien than, say, American Pie 2; expect also, on the basis of Elise Nakhnikian's review, bizarre delights. The trailer has certainly sold me on the reintroduction of Whit Stillman: now forty percent less likely to write characters resembling anyone you've ever met! I actually just watched Metropolitan and Barcelona for the first time last year, and quite enjoyed them, even though I'm to understand that Stillman has less satirical intentions than my experiences watching the movies led me to believe.
He's been gone for several cycles of next-big-starlet (and its even more self-contradictory cousin, next-big-indie-starlet)—sorry, Whit, you missed most of Parker Posey, and Zooey Deschanel is a sitcom star now!—but his new one makes up for lost time with Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton (a Next Top Model gal who was one of the better things about last year's Crazy Stupid Love), and Aubrey Plaza, among others. Basically, it's my most anticipated movie of the month. Or, to put it in April 1998 terms, it's the... Wild Things of 2012? Wait, that can't be right. I guess some movies have to stay in the late 90s.